Study Raises Concerns For Young LGBTI

The LGBTIReland Report, one of the largest national studies of mental health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, has just been launched. The study was undertaken by Professor in Mental Health from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Agnes Higgins, and her team, and is one of the largest of its kind.

Among the key findings are:

  • Younger LGBTI people are coming out earlier than previously – 16 is the most common age to tell the first person you are LGBTI
  • While the majority of LGBTI people aged 26 and over are doing well, 56% of 14-18 year olds had self-harmed
  • 70% in this age group had suicidal thoughts and one in three had attempted suicide

Commenting on the study Professor Higgins said: “The high rates of mental health issues in the younger age group are worryingly high, in particular the rates of self-harm, suicide attempts, depression and anxiety.  Whilst there has been significant advancement in the civil and legal rights of LGBTI people in Ireland, we need to address the issues many of our younger people face within schools and wider society.”

This was echoed by Odhrán Allen, Director of Mental Health at GLEN, who commissioned the study: “Being LGBTI in itself doesn’t increase the risk of poor mental health. It’s the experience of being bullied, being rejected or being harassed because you are LGBTI that leads to higher levels of self-harm and attempted suicide.”

The report highlights the particular challenges faced by transgender and intersex people. It showed that intersex people had the highest scores for depression, anxiety and stress, followed by transgender and bisexual people.

Professor Higgins and her team also researched public attitudes towards LGBTI people and found that there are still many misunderstandings about gender identity. For example:

  • 1 in 3 of the general public do not believe that a young person can know they are LGBTI at the age of 12, yet the most common age LGBTI know is 12
  • 1 in 5 believe that being LGBTI is something that you can be convinced to become
  • 1 in 5 believe that bisexual people are just confused about their sexual orientation

Former President Dr Mary McAleese officially launched the study, which recommends, among other things, increased public understanding to help change attitudes and behaviour and to recognise that the LGBTI community is a heterogeneous group with diverse needs.